Author: Sarah Perez

Twitter to launch a ‘hide replies’ feature, plus other changes to its reporting process

In February, Twitter confirmed its plans to launch a feature that would allow users to hide replies that they felt didn’t contribute to a conversation. Today, alongside news of other changes to the reporting process and its documentation, Twitter announced the new “Hide Replies” feature is set to launch in June.

Twitter says the feature will be an “experiment” — which means it could be changed or even scrapped, based on user feedback.

The feature is likely to spark some controversy, as it puts the original poster in control of which tweets appear in a conversation thread. This, potentially, could silence dissenting opinions or even fact-checked clarifications. But, on the flip side, the feature also means that people who enter conversations with plans to troll or make hateful remarks are more likely to see their posts tucked away out of view.

This, Twitter believes, could help encourage people to present their thoughts and opinions in a more polite and less abusive fashion, and shifts the balance of power back to the poster without an overcorrection. (For what it worth, Facebook and Instagram gives users far more control over their posts, as you can delete trolls’ comments entirely.)

“We already see people trying keep their conversations healthy by using block, mute, and report, but these tools don’t always address the issue. Block and mute only change the experience of the blocker, and report only works for the content that violates our policies,” explained Twitter’s PM of Health Michelle Yasmeen Haq earlier this year. “With this feature, the person who started a conversation could choose to hide replies to their tweets. The hidden replies would be viewable by others through a menu option.”

In other words, hidden responses aren’t being entirely silenced — just made more difficult to view, as displaying them would require an extra click.

Twitter unveiled its plans to launch the “Hide Replies” feature alongside a host of other changes it has in store for its platform, some of which it had previously announced.

It says, for example, it will add more notices within Twitter for clarity around tweets that breaks its rules but are allowed to remain on the site. This is, in part, a response to some users’ complaints around President Trump’s apparently rule-breaking tweets that aren’t taken down. Twitter’s head of legal, policy and trust Vijaya Gadde recently mentioned this change was in the works, in an interview with The Washington Post.

Twitter also says it will update its documentation around its Rules to be simpler to understand. And it will make it easier for people to share specifics when reporting tweets so Twitter can act more swiftly when user safety is a concern.

This latter change follows a recent controversy over how Twitter handled death threats against Rep. Ilhan Omar. Twitter left the death threats online so law enforcement could investigate, according to a BuzzFeed News report. But it raised questions as to how Twitter should handle threats against a user’s life.

More vaguely, Twitter states it’s improving its technology to help it proactively review content that breaks rules before it’s reported — specifically in the areas of those who dox users (tweet private information), make threats and other online abuse. The company didn’t clarify in depth how it’s approaching these problems, but it did acquire an anti-abuse technology provider Smyte last year, with the goal of better addressing the abuse on its platform.

Donald Hicks, VP Twitter Services, in a company blog post, hints Twitter is using its existing technology in new ways to address abuse:

The same technology we use to track spam, platform manipulation and other rule violations is helping us flag abusive Tweets to our team for review. With our focus on reviewing this type of content, we’ve also expanded our teams in key areas and geographies so we can stay ahead and work quickly to keep people safe. Reports give us valuable context and a strong signal that we should review content, but we’ve needed to do more and though still early on, this work is showing promise.

Twitter also today shared a handful of self-reported metrics that paint of picture of progress.

This includes the following: today, 38 percent of abusive content that’s enforced is handled proactively (note: much content still has no enforcement action taken, though); 16 percent fewer abuse reports after an interaction from an account the reporter doesn’t follow; 100K accounts suspended for returning to create new accounts during Jan. – March 2019, a 45 percent increase from the same time last year; a 60 percent faster response rates to appeals requests through its in-app appeal process, 3x more abusive accounts suspended within 24 hours, compared to the same time last year; and 2.5x more private info removed with its new reporting process. 

Despite Twitter’s attempts to solve issues around online abuse (an area people now wonder may never be solvable), it still drops the ball in handling what should be straightforward decisions.

Twitter admits it still has more to do, and will continue to share its progress in the future.

Tinder becomes the top-grossing, non-game app in Q1 2019, ending Netflix’s reign

For the first time in years, Netflix is no longer the top grossing, non-game mobile app. Instead, that title now goes to dating app Tinder. The change in position is not surprising, given Netflix’s decision in December to stop paying the so-called “Apple tax.” That is, it no longer allows new users to sign up and subscribe to its service through its iOS application.

The change was said to cost Apple hundreds of millions in lost revenue per year, given that Netflix’s app had been the world’s top-earning, non-game app since Q4 2016. Now, instead of giving up its 15 to 30 percent cut of subscription revenue, new users have to sign up through Netflix’s website before they can use the app on mobile devices, including both iOS and Android. (Netflix had dropped in-app subscriptions on Android earlier.)

App store intelligence firm Sensor Tower estimated Netflix had earned $853 million in 2018 on the iOS App Store. A 30 percent cut would have been around $256 million. However, after the first year, subscription apps only have to pay out 15 percent to Apple. But Netflix had a special deal, according to John Gruber — it only had to pay 15 percent from the get-go.

In any event, it’s still a large sum. And one large enough to end Netflix’s reign at the top of the revenue charts.

In Q1 2019, Sensor Tower estimates Netflix pulled in $216.3 million globally, across both the Apple App Store and Google Play, down 15 percent quarter-over-quarter from $255.7 million in Q4 2018.

Meanwhile, Tinder’s revenue has climbed. In the first quarter, it saw revenue grow by 42 percent year-over-year, to reach $260.7 million, up from $183 million in Q1 2018.

That put it at the top, according to both Sensor Tower and App Annie’s estimates.

Beyond Tinder, Line and Line Manga, the rest of the top grossing, non-game apps in Q1 2019 were also focused on streaming, music and video, in Sensor Tower’s analysis. This included Tencent Video (No. 3), iQIYI (No. 4), YouTube (No. 5), Pandora (No. 6), Kwai (No. 7) and Youku (No. 10).

Meanwhile, the top downloaded, non-game apps in the quarter were largely those focused on social media, messaging and video. This included, in order: WhatsApp, Messenger, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, SHAREit, YouTube, LIKE Video, Netflix and Snapchat.

TikTok, notably, has held onto its No. 3 position, having grown its new users 70 percent year-over-year, by adding 188 million in Q1. The growth was driven by India, where 88.6 million new users joined the app, compared with “just” 13.2 million in the U.S. — or 181 percent year-over-year growth.

To date, Sensor Tower has seen the app installed more than 1.1 billion times. (But keep in mind that’s not total users — many people install it on multiple devices. Nor is it monthly active users. On that front, the app has 500 million monthly actives as of the end of its third quarter 2018.)

TikTok also did well on the revenue side thanks to in-app purchases, though not well enough to start ranking in the top charts. User spending was 222 percent higher in Q1 2019 versus Q1 2018, reaching an estimated $18.9 million worldwide.

Overall, Apple’s App Store accounted for 64 percent of revenue in Q1, with consumer spending reaching $12.4 billion compared to Google Play’s $7.1 billion. New app downloads slowed on iOS in Q1, decreasing 4.7 percent year-over-year, to 7.4 billion, while Google Play downloads grew 18.8 percent to 20.7 billion.

To cut down on spam, Twitter cuts the number of accounts you can follow per day

Twitter just took another big step to help boot spammers off its platform: it’s cutting the number of accounts Twitter users can follow, from 1,000 per day to just 400. The idea with the new limits is that it helps prevent spammers from rapidly growing their networks by following then unfollowing Twitter accounts in a “bulk, aggressive or indiscriminate manner” – something that’s a violation of the Twitter Rules.

A number of services were recently banned from Twitter’s API for doing this same thing.

Several companies had been offering tools that allowed their customers to automatically follow a large number of users with little effort. This works as a growth tactic because some people will follow back out of courtesy, without realizing they’ve followed a bot.

The companies also offered tools to mass unfollow the Twitter accounts of those who didn’t return the favor by following the bot back. Other automated tools were often provided, as well –  like ones for creating those annoying auto-DMs, for example.

Twitter at the beginning of the year suspended a good handful of apps for violating its rules around “following and follow churn.” But booting the companies only addressed those that aimed profit by providing spammy automations as a service that others could use.

To really take on the spammers, the limits around how many people Twitter users can follow also had to be changed at the API level.

However, some people believe Twitter hasn’t gone far enough with today’s move.

In response to Twitter’s tweet about the new limits, several have responded to ask why the number “400” was chosen, as that still far more than a regular Twitter user would need to follow in a single day. Some users said it took years to get to the point of following hundreds of people. Meanwhile, the business use case for following 400 people is somewhat debatable, since DMs can be left open and companies can tweet a special URL to send customers to their inbox to continue a conversation – no following or unfollowing needed on either side.

While smaller businesses may still employ mass following techniques to attract customers, this at least puts more of a cap on those efforts.

These new limits and the spam dealer crackdown aren’t the only changes Twitter has taken in recent months to tackle the spam problem on its platform.

The company also updated its reporting tools to allow users to report spam, like fake accounts; and it introduced new security measures around account verification and sign-up, alongside other changes focused on more proactively identifying spammers. Last summer, Twitter also purged accounts it had previously locked for being spammy from people’s follower metrics.

Combined, the series of actions is designed to make spamming Twitter less attractive and considerably more difficult to scale. This impacts not only those who use spam for capital gain but also the new wave of fake news peddlers looking to topple democracies and disrupt elections – something that now has the U.S. government considering increased regulations for social media.

The short-term impact of these changes could be a drop in Twitter’s monthly user growth (a number Twitter recently stopped sharing), but it’s a bet on the long-term health of the platform instead.

Twitter’s latest test focuses on making conversations easier to follow by labeling tweets

Twitter continues to experiment with ways to make conversations on its platform easier to follow. In addition to its prototype app twttr, which is testing threaded replies, the company also recently tested labeling replies to highlight those from the “original tweeter” – meaning it would show when the person who first tweeted a post then replied within the conversation thread. Now, Twitter is changing up this labeling system again.

On Thursday, the company said a new test was rolling out which would instead label the “original tweeter” as “Author” – a term that’s a bit more straightforward .

“Original tweeter” had been a nod to the commonly used term”original poster,” which designates the person who started a conversation on an internet message board or online forum. But if the goal was to make Twitter easier to understand for those who are less tech-savvy, “original tweeter” may have been more confusing if they weren’t familiar with that reference.

In addition, Twitter is also now adding two new labels, “Mentioned” and “Following,” which will be added to other important tweets in conversation threads.

“Mentioned” will be added to any tweet posted by someone who the original tweeter…err, Author…had referenced in their first tweet. The “Following” label, meanwhile, will be added to tweets from those Twitter users you’re following, as a way to catch their replies when scrolling through long threads.

Oddly, these are the same sort of features that Twitter is trying out on its twttr prototype as well, but in a different way. In the invite-only testing app, the original poster is highlighted using a thin gray line next to their tweet, while those you’re following is a brighter blue.

Twitter’s larger goal here is to better design its app for longer discussions. However, the labels also can help in specific scenarios where the replies to a tweet include posts from a lot of parody accounts. Often, parody accounts have adopted usernames and profile pics to resemble that of the person they’re poking fun at – sometimes inadvertently confusing users and, other times, to blatantly troll or spam.

Despite the usefulness of features like labels, these sorts of minor changes feel like an odd thing for Twitter to focus its attention on, when users’ main demands are still an edit button and for the company to deal with abuse and harassment.

On the latter front, Twitter was recently spotted working on a “Hide Tweet” feature. While more controversial than a new label, a hide tweet button would have the potential to impact user behavior, as it allows a poster to hide the replies they didn’t like. As a result, those following a conversation would have to click a button to view these hidden replies. In other online forums, knowing that a trolling or unhelpful comment would be downvoted or removed has helped to stem bad user behavior and encourage better conversations. The feature, however, could be used to silence dissenting opinions, which some people don’t like.

If Twitter won’t roll out an edit button, experiments around dealing with trolls through product features would probably be more useful than continually tweaking Twitter’s extra little flourishes.

Bumble goes to print with its new lifestyle magazine, Bumble Mag

Bumble is the latest digital brand to try to extend its reach through a print publication. The dating app maker today announced the launch of Bumble Mag, a lifestyle publication it produced in partnership with Hearst that offers stories and advice about dating, careers, friendship and more to Bumble’s over 50 million users.

On the cover of the 100-page premiere issue is Lauren Chan, a fashion entrepreneur behind the plus-size workwear line called Henning.

Inside, the magazine is organized into four sections that align with the Bumble app’s different modes: “You First,” “You + BFFs,” “You + Dating” and “You + Bizz.” Here, readers will find celebrity interviews, features, advice, product guides, “daily mantras,” and more.

Contributors in this month’s debut issue include Bumble advisor and the star of the brand’s first Super Bowl campaign, Serena Williams; writers, actresses and Bumble Creative Directors Erin and Sara Foster; Man Repeller founder Leandra Medine; jewelry designer Jennifer Meyer; and Away luggage co-founder Jen Rubio.

A digital brand taking to print is no longer a unique occurence.

Airbnb has Airbnb Magazine, which arrives in the mail; Unilever’s Dollar Shave Club runs Mel Magazine; mattress brand Casper created Woolly Magazine in partnership with McSweeney’s; luggage brand Away has Here Magazine; Uber has rolled out several print magazines, including Vehicle, Arriving Now, and Momentum; and even Facebook launched a print magazine, Grow, aimed at business leaders.

For Bumble, the magazine offers the company a way to introduce its brand to new customers as well as extend its relationship with existing users out in the real world. This is part of Bumble’s larger efforts in developing an offline component to its business. The company also runs pop-ups, hosts events, and has spoken of plans to launch more physical locations – “Hives,” in Bumble lingo – sometime this year.

These moves also speak to Bumble’s aspiration to be more than just another dating app and Tinder rival.

The company instead wants to be known more broadly as a women-centric lifestyle brand where its users can network online and off, in all aspects of their lives – not just dating. For example, its Bumble BFF service helps women make new friends, while Bumble Bizz  is focused on business networking.

The company says the new magazine will be distributed by its 3,000+ brand ambassadors – marketers and event hosts who work with Bumble to promote its brand. Users can also request a free copy of the first issue within the app.

For Hearst, print efforts from online brands like Bumble represent a new line of business at a time when print is being challenged by digital solutions, like Kindle Unlimited or Apple News+, which are trying to transition print magazine subscribers to go digital-only.

“Bumble is at the forefront of inspiring women to make connections and take initiative in all aspects of their lives with its positive message of empowerment,” said HearstMade Editorial Director, Brett Hill, in a statement. “The magazine is a perfect example of how HearstMade is changing the face of custom publishing with hyper-targeted content that reflects the brand’s ethos in the most authentic way.”

Bumble Mag becomes available nationwide on Friday, April 5, says Bumble.


WhatsApp adds a new privacy setting for groups in another effort to clamp down on fake news

WhatsApp today announced another protection for users in an effort to clamp down on the spread of fake news and misinformation. Through a new feature, users can control who has permission to add them to groups. The company says this will “help to limit abuse” and keep people’s phone numbers private. Related to this, the app also will introduce an invite system for those who enable the additional protections, allowing users to vet any incoming group invites before deciding to join.

The privacy setting arrives only a day after the Facebook-owned messaging app launched a fact-checking tipline in India ahead of elections in the country.

Like other social platforms, WhatsApp has played a role in the spread of fake news. In Brazil, for example, the platform was flooded with falsehoods, conspiracy theories and other misleading propaganda.

This sort of disinformation doesn’t always arrive through family and friends, but can also come in the form of group chats — in some cases, chats that users were added to against their will.

This is particularly true in one of WhatsApp’s biggest markets, India.

As The WSJ recently reported, India’s political parties often use the app to blast messages to groups organized by caste, income level and religion. The number of hoaxes have skyrocketed as WhatsApp parent Facebook clamped down on fake news. Reports of hoaxes that last year numbered in the dozens per day have since grown to hundreds per day. And WhatsApp is now removing around 2 million suspicious accounts globally per month, the report said.

Putting users in control of how they’re added to groups could help some, but only if users are inspired to dig into the settings and make the change for themselves.

Ideally, this level of protection should be enabled as the default — not an optional choice.

To enable the new protection, users can go to Settings then tap Account > Privacy > Groups then choose one of the three options regarding who can add you to a group text: “Nobody,” “My Contacts” or “Everybody.” “Nobody” means you’ll have to approve joining every group to which you’re invited, WhatsApp says, and “My Contacts” means only users you already know can add you to groups.

In the event that you change the setting to either “Nobody” or “My Contacts,” people inviting you to groups will be instead prompted to send a private invite through an individual chat. That way, you still have the option of joining a group even if the person inviting you isn’t one of your regular WhatsApp contacts. However, the invite will expire in three days if you don’t accept.

This is only one of several changes to WhatsApp made in recent months focused on reducing the spread of misinformation and fake news. The company last summer began to limit message forwarding, and marked forwarded messages with a label. It was also spotted testing a new spam message warning system.

WhatsApp says the new settings roll out to some users today, and will reach the rest of WhatsApp’s audience in the weeks ahead. The most recent version of the app will be required.

Twitter now lets users appeal violations within its app

Twitter today announced a new feature that will allow users to appeal a tweet that’s in violation of Twitter’s rules directly within the Twitter app. When users post content in violation of Twitter’s guidelines, that tweet can be flagged or reported, resulting in an account suspension or lockout. Before, users would have to visit an online form to appeal Twitter’s decision.

Accounts can be suspended for a range of activity including spam, being a fake account, security risks (like hacked accounts), and abusive tweets or behavior such as sending threats or impersonating other accounts. (The latter which Twitter itself recently did as a joke. Ha ha ha. How hilarious to send 2FA codes over DM!)

Now, instead of having to locate the online form to start an appeal, users can instead choose to appeal the tweet in violation from within the Twitter app itself.

Twitter claims it’s now able to get back to people 60 percent faster, as a result.

The new process involves Twitter displaying the tweet in violation and the reason why it determined the tweet broke its rules, along with a description of the rule in question and a link to the policy. On the next screen, users can either choose to remove the tweet that violates Twitter’s rules or they can appeal the violation.

Of course, an appeal doesn’t immediately restore access to your Twitter account, if suspended – you’ll still have to wait for Twitter’s ruling. If that goes on for too long, you can return to cancel the appeal and just delete the tweet instead at any time to regain access to your account.

But if you proceed to appeal the tweet, you can explain why the tweet was mistakenly flagged.

In an example Twitter showed off today, a user posted what appeared to be a violent threat but was really just an inside joke about a video game, they explained.

The addition is a small change to the larger and much more complex process of handling the tweets that are in violation of Twitter’s rules. That’s an area where Twitter has been heavily criticized as it has been unable to get a handle on rampant harassment and abuse despite evolving its rules and policies to cover a range of bad behavior.

In an effort to better explain its decisions, the company recently said it will develop new ways to label tweets that violated its abuse terms, so those who come across them have a better understanding of the context when those tweets aren’t taken down. For example, tweets posted by public figures that aren’t direct violent threats – but are in “the public interest” –  might remain, but be labeled.

Twitter also changed the way it displayed reported tweets, so people could understand why enforcement actions had been taken.

And it’s working on more dramatic changes to its app – like giving users the ability to hide the @replies they don’t like.

Facebook asks for public input about its plans for a content oversight board

In November, Facebook announced its plans to create an external content oversight board that would serve as something of a “supreme court” for Facebook’s more controversial content policy decisions. The company took the first steps in January to describe how this content review board would function with the release of a draft charter. Today, Facebook is opening up a public consultation process to help it answer more questions around the Oversight Board’s design.

Over the next six weeks, Facebook says it will accept submissions from the public about its plans.

Public submissions will include two parts: a questionnaire and free-form questions.

The latter will focus on gathering input around membership, case decisions and governance. The questionnaire portion, however, is a more straightforward user survey where participants are asked to vote on various aspects (many already detailed in the draft charter) – like how many total members should the board have, how long they should serve, how they should gain their positions, what their makeup should be in terms of background, professional experience, views and diversity, among other things.

It also asks the public to weigh in on how the Oversight Board will make decisions on cases, with questions about how their rulings will impact policy, what subject matter experts they can consult, whether they should review written opinions from those the case affects, the precedent set by prior rulings, and more.

Some of these questions are simpler to answer, while others may give survey respondents pause.

For example, one asks if it’s more important for the board to dedicate more time and research to each case or if it should prioritize making more decisions each year?

While obviously all cases reviewed should be well-researched, if you believe Facebook’s board should resemble the U.S. courts system, then there should be guidance around how long its board members have to make a decision. Otherwise, it could see some of the toughest content policy decisions tied up in never-ending deliberations, with the board citing “more research is needed” to rule. That wouldn’t be fair to those whose content is held hostage in the meantime. But the question doesn’t allow for this level of nuance – so you’d need to take to the essay portion to share this position.

However, anyone can take the survey portion of the questionnaire and can choose to skip the essay section if they don’t have more to add.

Facebook says it has partnered with the firm Baker McKenzie, which will help it review the submissions. The responses will be summarized in a report published in June.

For Facebook, the launch of an independent review board allows the company to further distance itself from controversial policy decisions.

As we noted in January, decision-making around content removals is an area where Facebook has repeatedly and publicly failed, and with disastrous consequences. The company has been widely criticized for how it handled issues like the calls to violence that led to genocide in Myanmar and riots in Sri Lanka; election meddling from state-backed actors from Russia, Iran and elsewhere; its failure to remove child abuse posts in India; the weaponization of Facebook by the government in the Philippines to silence its critics; Facebook’s approach to handling Holocaust denials or conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones; and more.

The board’s creation will not only take the pressure off Facebook to make these decisions, it’s also an admission of sorts that Facebook agrees it’s not able to handle this level of responsibility any longer.

Those interested in sharing their own thoughts around the review board can go here for the survey.

Twitter introduces a battery-saving ‘Lights Out’ dark mode option

As promised back in January by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, the company today is rolling out an even darker version of the app’s existing dark mode. Before, Twitter’s dark theme was more of a blue-ish shade instead of a true black, which not everyone seemed to like. Now, there’s an optional setting that makes the current dark mode more of a pitch black.

To use the new feature, you’ll first visit the Twitter app’s “Settings and Privacy” section, then click on “Display and Sound.” From there, you can toggle on the “Dark mode” which enables the current blue-black theme.

A second option, “Lights out” is offered below. If checked, dark mode ditches the blue tones and becomes black instead.

It’s an interesting choice to not just darken the existing theme, but rather introduce a third option. Most apps offering a dark mode don’t do this – they just offer a bright, white theme and another darker one. Twitter – which doesn’t always do things by the book to say the least – has gone a different route.

A tweak to the dark mode may seem like a minor adjustment to be concerned with, but dark modes today have grown in popularity as larger phone screens became the norm – particularly because they can help to conserve battery life on high-end OLED devices. (And especially on apps used as regularly as Twitter!)

Some people also feel a dark mode is just easier on the eyes when apps are used for long stretches of time.

The topic of dark modes even made its way to The Wall Street Journal which made a case for darker themes becoming standard not only for the battery benefits, but also because they may help lessen device addiction and improve sleep.

Today, a number of apps support dark themes including YouTube, Google, Medium, Reddit, Instapaper, Pocket, iBooks, Kindle, Google Maps and Waze, and others. WhatsApp is also reportedly working on a dark mode, according to recent reports.

Dorsey first announced Twitter’s plans for a new dark mode a few months ago, in response to a customer complaint which called Twitter’s dark mode a “weird blue.”

Twitter says the new Lights Out mode is rolling out today.

Twitter took over a user’s account and joked about reading their DMs

At a time when tech giants have come under fire for failing to protect the private data of their users, Twitter took over one of its user’s accounts for fun and then tweeted jokes about reading the account’s private messages. The account, to be clear, was willingly volunteered for this prank by social media consultant Matt Navarra, who’s well-known in some Twitter circles for being among the first to spot new features on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

In fact, TechCrunch itself has credited Navarra on a number of occasions for his tweets about features like Twitter’s new camera, Facebook’s “time spent” dashboard, Facebook’s “Explore” feed, Instagram’s “Do Not Disturb” setting, and more. Several other tech news sites have done the same, which means Navarra’s private messages (direct messages, aka DM’s) probably included a lot of conversations between himself and various reporters.

He’s also regularly tipped off about upcoming features or those in testing on sites like Twitter. One could assume he has regular conversations with his network of tipsters through DM’s, as well.

Initially, we believed the whole “account takeover” was just a joke – perhaps a case of Navarra poking fun at himself and his own obsession with social media. After all, “takeovers” are a common social media stunt these days, particularly on Instagram Stories. But they usually involve an individual posting for a brand – not a brand posting for an individual.

Navarra had the idea on Monday, and tweeted out a call for someone to run his account for a day.

He tells TechCrunch he had a tragic incident in his family, and offered the chance for someone else to tweet as him for the day so he could take a day away from Twitter. He also thought it could be fun. (Twitter tells us he remained logged in while the company was tweeting from his account, however.)

Navarra says he was surprised that Twitter volunteered for the job, and he agreed to give them control. Most of his followers – fellow social media enthusiasts – were excited and amused about the plan, which they touted as “epic,” “gold,” and a “great idea!

Navarra on Tuesday tweeted out photos of himself handing over his account key to Twitter in a DM thread.

On Tuesday, Twitter began tweeting as Navarra. This mostly involved some gentle roasting – like tweets about muting people asking for an “edit” button, and other nonsense. Twitter said then it was going to tweet out some of Navarra’s drafts, and posted things like “who has a Google Wave code?” and something about BBM, among other things. (Navarra says these were fake – not real drafts.)

But other jokes were less funny. Twitter said it was reading Navarra’s DMs, for example.

(At the time of posting, these embedded tweets were posted from “Tweet Navarra” as Twitter temporarily changed the account name while it was tweeting as Matt. But it’s been since changed back, so these embeds show the current account name, “Matt Navarra.”)

The company then posted a screenshot of his Direct Message inbox to poke fun at the fact that he had DM’d with an account called “Satan,” in one incident.

Navarra played along, joking from his new account for the day @realmattnavarra for Twitter to “ignore that DM from Zuck.”

While I personally had not DM’d Navarra anything compromising, I can’t speak for everyone who had ever messaged him. Even if Navarra had signed up to have his account taken over, those he messaged with had not volunteered to have their privacy violated. And though my conversations with him were innocuous, it was disconcerting to know that my message history with a private individual was accessible by someone at Twitter.

Reached for comment, Navarra claims his “DMs were all deleted” before Twitter entered his account. Unfortunately, there’s no way to verify this as DM deletion on Twitter is one-sided. That means that even if he deleted the DMs, the person who sent them could still view them in their own inbox.

It also appears from the screenshot Twitter posted that the entire inbox hadn’t been wiped.

At the end of the day, Navarra may have been misguided with this stunt – perhaps he should have first demonstrated that he had cleaned out his inbox by posting a tweet of it being empty – but he is not a public social media company. It’s completely nuts that Twitter thought this was a funny idea.

Whether or not Twitter actually saw private conversations, it’s bad optics for the company to take over a user’s account for a lark then joke about violating users’ privacy at a time when tech giants like Facebook and Google are under threat of increased regulations for not taking care of users’ private data.

Twitter did not provide a comment, but confirmed it logged into Navarra’s account for a few hours for the takeover in the hopes of starting fun conversations with his followers.